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KC Alumni Speakers

As a high school student, did you have plans to pursue a career? Maybe you had a set plan for which universities or school you were planning to attend. Did you have trouble with setting goals after graduation? Life outside high school may have been confusing or terrifying, but a few alumni’s came to Kirtland Central High School to tackle some issues students may be facing.

Inside the Brooks Isham Performing Arts Center, former students Jamar Hall, Jonathon Schmitt, Jourdan Bennett-Begay, Taylor Bennett-Begay, and Jerome Coca spoke about their careers and life choices. Several speakers continued their learning with some attending in state universities and several out of state schools such as University of Denver, Syracuse University, and Harvard. Students from different classes attended; asking questions pertaining scholarships, adversities, and discernment.

Jamar Hall, a comedian who travels across the country and producer for several comedy shows graduated in the class of 2007. Jamar mentioned how he was able to overcome insecurities in a social environment through technics he learned and public speaking classes. For some one that was interested in a field of psychology, he later found comedy as a passion to take seriously and was able to make it a career.              

Jonathon Schmitt, who is currently a Postdoctoral Researcher for Harvard studying Genomics went to UNM to obtained his bachelors and master’s degree from UNM. He currently finished his PhD in Biology from Harvard. Jonathon mentioned to students how he took 13 years to finish his schooling. Jonathon emphasized how important it is to learn different languages and how computer science is something to be interested in. “It maybe sounds a little scary, but it’s a helpful skill in a digital world we live in; opening doors to a lot of opportunities.”            
Jourdan Bennett-Begay, is a master’s graduate who is an editor in a Navajo journalism organization called “Indian Country Today.” She covers many stories in the indigenous world across politics, entertainment, cooking, fashion, and much more. She first went to Atlanta to attend her first years of college but found that she missed home. Jourdan realized to come back and continue school at Fort Lewis and realizing how journalism was something she cared about and wanted to pursue. She highlighted how scholarships were important for her to become debt free which she was proud of.

Alongside her sister, Taylor Bennett- Begay graduated in the class of 2011 and attended Mesa Community College playing soccer for the team. Later, she transferred to Fort Lewis with a bachelor’s degree in graphic design and went abroad to Italy to work with Sundance Film Institute. She now is graduating from University of Denver with a Master's degree in Media & Public Communication with a concentration on strategic communication. Taylor shared how with her degree, its helped open opportunities to work with organizations branding and targeting audiences she cares for. Also she teamed with movie stars such as Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, and Taika Waititi while working part time with “Protect the Sacred.”            

Many speakers spoke about their experiences in college, but Jerome Coca went another direction with joining United States Military. He graduated from Kirtland Central in 2020 amidst of a pandemic which he shared the struggles of getting through high school. Jerome did attend college and found out that continued education possibly wasn’t for him. Jerome has earned a ranking of Private First Class which he mentioned teamwork and mistakes he learned to become the person he is today.

Thank you to our Kirtland Central High School Alumni for presenting to our students which will empower them in the future and maybe share to the next generation of students.